Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here


Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here –
Untold Stories From The Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism
By Karima Bennoune
Norton & Company – £20.00

”Aboubakr, twenty-eight, a computer-science student, was visiting his mother and stepfather in his hometown of Gades, in the Gao region, when ”the events” of spring 2012 occurred. A group of nine terrorists in fatigues – probably from the armed group MUJAO – came to the house in a Land Rover. They killed Aboubkar’s nineteen-year-old sister Fatimata, his mother Mahawa, who sold spices and vegetables in the local market, and her husband, whom Aboubkar called Tonton (Uncle) Jimmy. Tonton Jimmy was tortured first. All the while, the armed men shouted, ”God is great” and laughed. Afterward, they burned down the house for good measure. I think about this story again a few weeks after I hear it when women’s human rights defender Djingarey Maiga asks rhetorically in Bamako about the fundamentalist violence afflicting his country, ”Who will be Muslim after they have killed everyone?”

When one hears of such deplorable incidents, is it any wonder that Muslims around the world continue to garner such bad press and bad feeling? Admittedly, much of it might be (un)warranted, but such truly harrowing behaviour as that described above (in this book’s tenth chapter, ‘The People of Al Qaedastan: Voices from Northern Mali’) haunts unto the very core.

That said, because such barbarity is regularly reported and happens all the time, so-called decent society is almost becoming immune to that of it’s all to violent trajectory. It seems the bar of ultimate human decency is forever on the wane. One of the prime reasons being, there appears to be absolutely no comprehensive dialogue amid the varying supporters of differing Gods

As for any form of understanding (whatsoever), forget it.

In fact, understanding doesn’t even come into the equation. It certainly didn’t appear to come into the equation of the wretched nine terrorist’s thinking – as those outlined above; which is why Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here – Untold Stories From The Fight Against Muslim Fundamentalism makes for such an eye opening and valid read.

The book simply traverses one literary minefield, such as that of gender apartheid, after another. While in so doing, it re-exposes one shameful act carried out in the name of God, after another (after another after another).

”Sexism is at the heart of this totalitarian project,” says Iranian sociologist Chahla Chafiq of what she calls ”Islamism […]. Muslim fundamentalists aim to control the womb, the unmentionable areas of the body – what the Qur’an calls ”the unseen parts.” Sometimes they are even said to include the faces of women.”

Indeed, ”who will be Muslim after they have killed everyone?” And prior to having killed everyone, those on the outside of whatever God’s realm of trust happens to be, really ought to take note of sexism being: ”at the heart of this totalitarian project.”

There are clearly no answers, but lots of reflective questioning throughout Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here. This may partially explain why In the Introduction (‘Everything Looks Different Once You Have Seen ”Death To” Before Your Name”) Bennoune – who, having grown up in Algeria and the US and is now a professor of international law at the University of California/Davis School of Law – writes: ”I hope that readers will come along on my trip, and view the landscape through my eyes. My perspective – that of a secular person of Muslim heritage concerned with both rising fundamentalism and increasing discrimination against Muslims – is rarely heard in the West. In the post 9/11 era, this is all contentious subject matter often seen only through right or left wing versions of the so-called clash of civilizations, a set of paradigms I reject. For me, the clashes within civilizations, like those between fundamentalists and their opponents everywhere, are much more defining today […]. Nevertheless, writing about Muslim fundamentalism in this era for an American audience feels like dancing on a minefield. I have decided to do it anyway, given that what I face is merely a metaphorical minefield, while many of those you will meet in this book confront something rather more like the real thing and continue to speak out anyway. They sing and dance and write and joke and bare their heads and speak their minds and claim equality and the right to be themselves when all these things are forbidden by fundamentalists, something on pain of death.”

As Wole Soyinka, winner of the 1986 Nobel Prize for Literature writes: ”Bennoune’s meticulous testament serves as a warning to the complacent and rebukes ‘politically correct’ posturing that makes excuses for the inexcusable and canvasses tolerance for the intolerable.” It’s eleven chapters (plus Introduction and Conclusion) is a powerful yet humbling reminder of what courage ought to be, but very seldom is.

David Marx


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